The Caregiver Haven Survival Guide
Good morning and thank you for joining us this morning. This is Ben Souchek with the Home Downsizing Solutions Show and today I have a special guest, Suzanne Fiscella, with Caregiver Haven, and I thought this would be a great topic to talk about. It’s something that I haven’t discussed on the show before, which is taking care of caregivers.
I think we all know that taking care of others can be extremely stressful. My family’s going through it right now with a couple of my older siblings, and I know that it can be a very stressful job if the caregiver doesn’t take care of themselves as well. And so I wanted to bring Suzanne on this morning and share her information that I think will be very beneficial.
So Suzanne, thank you for joining us this morning.
Well thank you for having me back. I’m so glad to be here. There’s just so much that we can do for the caregiver and we often forget that.
I am actually a physician assistant and for years I’ve practiced medicine in both emergency room and the clinics, especially with COVID that we’re dealing with now, and I have seen so many mistakes in the healthcare system, kind of looking behind the curtain as to what’s going on and I have found my average age patient is 86 years old here in Florida; Fort Myers, Florida.
I see a lot of caregivers and my heart broke when I saw how frustrated and stressed they are because they cannot get answers. They can’t find or tend to keep up with the daily changes that they’re seeing in their loved one and they just don’t know where to turn.
So several years ago I started helping caregivers get through so many aspects of caregiving and realized that they really needed more and so Caregiver Haven was born out of that.
How Can A Senior Caregiver Avoid Burnout
Very good. The first question I have for you is because I’ve certainly heard too, where a caregiver will take care of someone else for so long, and obviously they can get burnt out. They can pass away because they just get so stressed of taking care of other people instead of taking care of themselves, as well. So how does a caregiver avoid burnout when they’re providing that role, day in and day out for someone?
You know, you’re absolutely right. They do burn out. In fact, 38% of caregivers will pass before their loved one because of this stress and the problem is they don’t take care of themselves. They don’t see their own doctors. They put themselves on the back burner.
The thing we know about caregiving is this is not… You’re not in it for the short term. It’s actually the long haul and you have to be ready for it. We have found, and just my experience as being a caregiver advocate over the years, is there are really six areas, Ben, of caregiving.
Six Areas Of Caregiving
The first four of them pertain to the loved one. Whether it’s the husband, the wife, or the parents, aging family member, neighbor, whoever it is, but the first four deal with that aspect and the last two, deal with the caregivers themselves.
To give you a quick example, the first four, we look at the health care of the loved one because there is no way that we can know as caregivers, what’s going to happen in the future, unless we know their diseases, their diagnoses, their treatment plans. We have to know those.
From there, number two, we look at the social and the mental decline of the loved one because we know it’s going to happen. We have to keep them social and we have to look at their memory losses, their dementia, and how we’re going to handle that in the future.
The third is the legal and financial. This is very important because the average caregiver will spend over $7,000 of their own money, as you have probably seen in your business. They will spend over $7,000 of their own money trying to get help, or just taking time off work, whatever they need to do. It’s very costly to be a caregiver these days.
Then the legal aspects, can’t even get into that right now. It’s so complicated. Nothing is easy anymore.
The fourth aspect is the home living and safety of the loved one. Where are we going to put them and especially what you deal with, how are they going to sell their home? Who’s going to get the proceeds? Where are the proceeds going to go? How much does it cost to go into one of the six different areas of senior care living? All of these things have to be looked at and I have seen disaster after disaster, after the person dies and what happens to their home and who gets what. It’s just, as you know, so complicated.
The last two are about the caregiver and the fifth thing that we deal with, with our caregivers, and we actually have a membership. This membership allows us to talk one-on-one with the caregiver. We give them advice as they go through all these stages.
But the fifth one is boundaries because we find caregivers are not strong to start out. They want to please their loved one and sometimes they’re bullied. They’re bullied by not only their loved one, but their family too. Or, they’re pulled in different directions with their family, where they’re their wife or their husband or daughter wants them to come for Christmas vacation, or come for this or that, and then they’re pulled because they feel guilty because they don’t want to leave the person they’re taking care of and they’re totally stressed. So we talk about boundaries.
Then the last is their own freedom. We want them to live the life they love while caregiving and it’s very important to us to make sure that they can step on our shoulders, for all we care, because in this membership club what we do is, we allow them to get the freedom back; their socialization. Keep their friends, because at the end when their loved one passes, they look up and they typically don’t have any friends left. They don’t know where to pick up the pieces. And so what we make sure is they’re continuing to live their life, as they go through caregiving, so they never fall off that cliff in the end. That’s what Caregiver Haven is all about.
Very good. My next question is if a person especially is very independent for a long time, and then they get into a situation where they have someone that is taking care of them in a caregiving role, and they sometimes don’t want to share things with that caregiver. If a loved one is not willing to talk about financial and legal items with a caregiver so that the caregiver can help them, what are a couple of simple things that they should do or could do, to make sure that is not a problem?
Financial & Legal Issues For Caregivers
You know, it’s a really good question, Ben, because we see a lot of this. Usually the norm is the elder does not want to talk about their finances or their legal, or they’ll say, “Oh, everything’s taken care of.” And it never is. You know this. It never is.
So what we recommend is, we recommend that the caregiver get three attorneys. Not one, not two, but three and they get only elder law attorneys. Now what they’re going to do is they’re going to interview each of these three elder law attorneys and usually, and they can find this, elder law attorneys are willing to sit down with you for 30 to 60 minutes for a free consultation.
Why is the caregiver getting an elder law attorney? Because the caregiver is going to befriend this elder law attorney that they choose. Eventually they’re going to pick one and they’re going to let the elder law attorney take over and help their loved one, so they don’t have to be the bad guy. It is the most successful way to get the loved one to start opening up.
We also find too, that we recommend that you take your questions. People get emotional when they’re talking to their attorneys and we don’t want that. When you go into an elder law attorneys office, you want to have a set of questions. Here’s what I need and the elder law attorney will guide you and eventually, and it may even take up to a year, but your loved one will turn that corner and eventually start working with that elder law attorney. That’s how we do it.
Basically creating a team for caregiving versus trying to do everything themselves, as the caregiver, which is, would be beneficial for that caregiver anyways, is to make sure they have a team to address those items.
Exactly right. We do encourage the team. In fact, the last part that what we call pillar number six, the freedom, about developing their team. When you go into an assisted living situation, there are 30, it takes 31 people to take care of that one individual every week. 31 people. And caregivers don’t realize that. It’s no wonder they’re burned out and exhausted. They don’t realize how much time and energy it takes to care for just one person. So, we’ve got to build a team from all different aspects of caregiving so we’re ready.
How A Caregiver Can Get Their Life Back
Yeah and that kind of leads into my next question is again, a caregiver wants to do everything they can, understandably for their loved one, but at some point there’s obviously the situation where a caregiver says, “I want my life back, at least to some extent. I want my time back, a little bit, to do the things that I used to do, but I feel guilty about even thinking in that manner.”
What would you say to someone like that? Or how would you counsel someone like that, that I’m sure is probably everybody to you that you run across.
I do. I run across a lot of my patients and caregivers who feel that they want to do it. They want to do it all, but yet they want their freedom to and guilt is very common here, especially if the loved one says, “I don’t want anyone else to take care of me. You’re the only one.”
I mean, I’ve even had one loved one, she pushed the desk up against the door and wouldn’t let the home care agency person come in and she was not having any of it.
So, I’ve seen it all. I think I’ve seen it all. But what we do in that case is we help. This is growing the caregiver. This is making the caregiver becomes stronger in their own right. Because when they’re called selfish, that person that’s calling them selfish is really saying, “Don’t please you, please me.” So, who’s really being selfish here?
The other thing is, we know that when caregivers do take the time off to socialize with their friends, to go places, to do things, they become better caregivers.
We tell our caregivers all the time, you always… and they’ve told me. I’ve had patients tell me, “I don’t have a choice.” And I say, “You always have a choice. You have a choice to become a better caregiver.” The way you do that is taking time for yourself.
But it’s little steps at a time. It’s maybe just the walk for 10 minutes. It’s maybe, oftentimes we’ll have a home health agency come in, not to help the loved one, but to help the caregiver and we start out that way. “Hey mom, dad, husband, or wife. I’m having a friend come over.” And they don’t know that that friend is actually with the home health agency and we move them in slowly into the home.
Financial Resources For Caregivers And Their Loved Ones
Exactly. Along with that, it, if you finally have a caregiver that says, “Okay, I recognize that I can do this all myself, that I’m willing to create somewhat of a team to bring other people in, to help provide that caregiving for someone.” But at the same time they say, “I don’t have the financial resources to do this myself. I don’t have the $7,000 plus,” you know, as you mentioned earlier, “to pay for some of these things and my loved one doesn’t have the financial resources.” What are some of the things that maybe people can do to get those resources?
This is so simple. It is called volunteers. We see it all the time. You would not believe the number of caregivers that say I can’t ask anyone. What we do at our membership is we teach our caregivers how to actually ask and they practice. They practice. It’s so funny because we tell them, Ben, to practice on people they really don’t want, first.
They practice. There’s a way to ask. You know this. There’s a way to ask and so we show them how to ask for the help that they need and 10 times out of 10, these people want to help, but they don’t know what to do. They don’t know what you need.
So caregivers, by opening up just a little bit and asking and saying, “Hey, can you help me with this work? Can you do this for me?” Especially when their loved one has to go in the hospital and there’s maybe a pet involved. I mean, who’s going to take care of the pet? Just the little things like that. We think ahead. Who loves dogs? Who loves cats? Who would love to do this? Who could you call?
So we start writing down these people and all of a sudden the flood gates open and there’s so many volunteers that are coming forward and they don’t have to pay a cent. All they have to do is show their gratitude.
That’s a very good, good point. There are people out there willing to help, but at the same time, some people aren’t just going to come forward because they don’t want to intrude on the family and so it is just a matter of just speaking up and asking for that help and I’m sure people will find help in ways they never even thought before.
They will. They absolutely. And you know, the interesting thing is some caregivers feel nobody can do it better than me, so I don’t want anyone else to help me. And when we let somebody get in there and they do it, they do take care of their loved one and they take care of them in a different way, they find that the loved one actually responds to them in a better way. It’s very interesting.
The other thing we noticed is caregivers will come home from being out socializing and the person that’s taking care of their loved one will always say, “Oh, we had a great time together. He or she was wonderful.” Well, I don’t always remind caregivers, Ben, this is what they’re going to say. They’re not going to say, “Oh, your loved one was impossible.” You don’t say that. So we prepare them ahead of time with just the common sense knowledge that they’re going to say, “Oh, they were wonderful.” Don’t take that as a bad, that you shouldn’t have gone or that, “Oh, brother. Today I paid for so-and-so to come in and they were having a great day.” Don’t feel that way. Caregivers who are helping are always going to say something like that.
Exactly and I know a couple different resources that you have, but are there any resources that you would like to mention that if there are caregivers listening to this, that would be available to them that I think would certainly help them?
Yes. One of the things they can do is they could actually call our number. Kat Schwartzhoff is our membership coordinator and she helps caregivers throughout the US. We’re in all 50 states now and that number is area code 239-476-2847. I think I got that right.
What I wrote down was 239-476-2847.
That’s correct. That’s that’s the cell phone that Kat carries with her and if they have any questions and they need any help and we have so many other resources, they can also reach me at email@example.com or Kat, and that is spelled K-A-T. Her name is Kathy. We call her Kat@caregiverhaven.com.
So either one of us. We’re very good at responding because we know that caregivers live in crisis, so we want to be there for them. What do you need? And we ask them to define that. They need to tell us what is most urgent, so we can get in there and help them.
Very good. Well, that answers my questions that I had for you today, Suzanne, is there any last minute items that you definitely want to get in front of people that I haven’t… Any questions that I haven’t asked or any other information that you really want to get out to people today?
Home Downsizing Solutions Resources For Caregivers
Well, one of the things, Ben, is the incredible service that you have for the aging population and being able to move and if you can just tell me again how you managed to get people to move and what kind of transition they have to go through, I’d love to be able to share that with our members.
Certainly. With Home Downsizing Solutions, my company helps long-term homeowners with the transition to senior care, specifically by buying their house.
We do everything that we can to make that transition, especially for their family, as stress-free and hassle-free as we possibly can, so that the family or the senior, does not have to worry about updating their house, removing things, or going through all the stuff that they just don’t care about anymore.
Maybe if the house has repairs or updates that haven’t been done or the need to be done, they don’t have to worry about spending the money on those things. We can just buy their house and work on the timeframe that they want the transition to where they’re getting to. And again, just making that as stress-free and hassle-free, as we possibly can. That’s what I focus on.
You know, it’s a wonderful service that you provide because so many folks say, “I have to clean my house first. I can’t see a realtor right now.” Or, “I have to do these repairs.” Or, they have done repairs to the house so they could live there as long as they wanted, but the repairs are not conducive to a good sale.
So taking the whole home situation off their hands, so that, let’s say I’m the caregiver. I can just move them and oftentimes, have everything set for them in their new facility, with the most important items first. That’s really important to the loved one and I thank you for that.
How would anybody, any of our members get ahold of you?
They can, to get ahold of my company or myself, just go to HomeDownsizingSolutions.com or certainly they can call me direct at, or the best thing is to call my assistant at toll free 855-291-5005 and I will certainly put all those links also in our show notes. So, thank you for asking about that.
Sure. Thank you. It just, there’s just so many resources out there. You’re just one of so many willing to help caregivers across America and they don’t realize because they don’t know and that’s what our goal is to get the resources out there to teach the caregivers what they don’t know.
Absolutely. Well, thank you, Suzanne, again for sharing that. I’m sure a lot of people will find this helpful and hopefully they can find you to get more resources from you and thank you for everyone watching or listening to this and we will see you next show.
Sounds great. Thanks again, Ben. Take care.
You too. Thank you
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